Rob Casey is the owner of Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle and is the author of two paddling guides.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Forgot Your Fin Screws?

Running a busy mobile SUP lesson and tour business, sometimes I forget the little things such as fin screws.  Or since I teach my students to put their own fins in, sometimes given then fickle procedure of putting fin screws in - the hardware slips off the board and gets lots in the sand.  Ever notice how sand is the same color of fin screws?

If you lose or forget your fin screws and providing I remembered to bring along some tape, we're good to go!  My ding repair tape is Foil Tape. Find this stuff in the plumbing or insulation aisle at the hardware store.  The best kind has a paper backing that peels off.  This stuff is super sticky and will attach to you board even when sandy and wet.  I carry a small strip of it in my PFD, or deck bag or a larger amount in the car.  Here in the Pacific NW the UV quick cure ding repair epoxy kits don't work too hot, so i'm more of a tape guy, thus it's great for ding repair too.

Taping a fin in requries a few pieces to make sure it's secure and doesn't rattle.  I run two long strips down the length of the fin base and one each over each end.  Sometimes I add a second layer over each to strengthen the bond.  Downside of foil tape? Sometimes its incredibly hard to remove.  Ask my ding repair guy Sean who has to get the stuff off to make a proper repair.

Wanna avoid this issue?  Get quick release fins.  Larry Allison, ImagineSurf and QR Fins are good solutions to having to carry, find and attach those annoying fin screws.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Knowing your Place - Boating Right of Way

I spoke to a boater today who said 'you paddle boarders don't know anything about right of way on the water!' In some ways he's right, as kayaks, canoes and SUPs generally aren't educated on rules of navigation in urban waterways.  On the other hand as many of you know, many boaters don't seem to know the rules either, so it goes both ways.

In our area, with hot summer temps SUPs appear out of every nook and cranny in great numbers.  Some come from rentals, others appear with brand new shiny Costco or brand named boards. I'd say 60% haven't had a lesson or have any sort of education per boating right of way.  As a result SUPs rest, nap and or casually paddle a busy boating channel by our launch spot not realizing they're in a navigable waterway.  Upstream is the Ballard Locks which releases 1-4kts of current. Downstream is the entry to a busy marina and open water.

What are your rights as a small human powered watercraft?  Without going into the details, the basics is that you don't have right of way over motor, fishing and commercial boats.  Interestingly sailboats have the most rights particularly under sail given their lack of visibility from the cockpit and being under sail simply means you have less control.  Veteran boaters use the term 'tonnage over donage', meaning, if it's bigger than you and under power, its best to get out of the way.

At low tides the above mentioned channel is dredged. On either side of the buoy marked channel are two large sandbars which dry out low tides. Many boats have grounded on the bars not realizing how shallow they can get.  When paddlers hang out in the channel at low tides, boaters can't swerve, and lacking brakes can't stop. There's ample 'shoulders' or paddling space on other side of the boating channel for small craft like us, so you don't need to go into the channel unless you're going to cross it.

If that's the case, I tell my students, it's like crossing a highway - look both ways, wait for traffic, then go when totally clear giving you enough time to paddle across - while remembering to factor in the outgoing current from the Locks as well - the current will push paddlers closer to boaters thus reducing the time they thought they had to cross.

In summary, per the tonnage vs donage I don't recommend hanging out in the boating channel with a large tourist boat coming directly at you, as these two characters chose to do.  In this case the boat had to cut their power and go into reverse to prevent hitting the boarders. The guys stood there, one eventually taking his camera out to take a pic while the Argosy tour captain proceeded to blow his horn.  This happens every day in summer.  It's frustrating as repeated activity like this is what creates additional restrictions for small craft on waterways. Case in point - the Locks upstream only allows kayaks and canoes to pass through, but not SUPs.

If you want to read the Coast Guard details on boating right of way, have at it - here's a lengthly document detailing the rules.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Preparing your SUP Paddle for Night Trips

Here in the Pacific Northwest summer is waning and fall is around the corner.  Days are getting shorter and very soon it'll be dark at 5pm.  Many of us don't stop paddling just because its colder, we just wear a wetsuit.  Shorter days means doing a few night paddles, or in my case as a SUP guide, I offer a bioluminescence night tours through early October.

Night paddling is fun and can be quite an experience but is even more satisfying when your gear is ready for it.  A technique I learned a few years ago is to wrap white electrical tape around my paddle shaft.  If I drop my paddle in the water, it'll be easier to retrieve.  The white tape also helps me see my black carbon paddle propped up against a fence or tree before I drive home, (been there done that).

I wrap the tape in areas where I won't be holding the paddle, or sliding my hand up the shaft when switching hands.

Here's a sample of a recently taped paddle.  Note my company sticker on the blade too.  The sticker helps people contact me when I leave my paddles at the beach (been there..), and it's good for marketing - I tell students the powerface is the same side of the sticker.

White electrical tape around my ProBolt Accent Paddle

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to Report Dead, Injured or Stranding Marine Wildlife

If you're on the water, you're most likely will come across dead, injured or stranded marine wildlife.  It's disturbing to see, but you can do something about it.

NOAA has a nationwide (in USA) network of numbers you can call to report any sightings, HERE

Here's a few tips to help the authorities when you make the call:

- List exact location you found the animal.  If tide is going out, mention where you think the animal may drift to.

- Look for any signs of injury which may of lead to death or injury.  Don't touch, pickup or take-in with you. Keep a distance, possibly take pics if available.

Here's a harbor seal we spotted on the Strait of Juan de Fuca last weekend.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

SUP Flip Rescue Revisted

The flip rescue is the best way to get a paddler or other water person in distress on a board to keep them warmer, and out of danger.  It's a simple manuever if practiced often to get the kinks out.  Here's a few clips from an instructor certification class I held last week. Video is the best demonstration which is coming soon.  Practice to be able to do it in a minute or less.

- Approach other board from opposite direction (boards nose to tail)
- Keep leashes untangled.
- To get a big person out, step to the back of their board with your heels over the rail to get as much leverage as possible.  Standing on the board is essential with someone bigger than you.
- Grab victims PFD straps, wetsuit under warms, or have then cross their arms and hold their hands for falling back.  Grab onto each to help stand up.
- Unlike the NRS video on YouTube, don't throw you paddle away, you may need it.
- Tow the person to shore, or push with your board (board to board) if a short distance.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Where do you put your keys?

When paddling there's always the issue of where to put your keys.  Some may bring the key with them, storing it in a wetsuit pocket or placing it a waterproof bag tucked in their wetsuit or around their neck.

Over the years, I tried different methods to store my keys on land - some successful, a few not so.  The stick it in the bush idea was a fail. I once came back after dark and took a bit find the right bush. Some place the key in the gas cap, others use those magnetic boxes to be stored under the car somewhere

For those seeking land based safe storage locations, here's a few smarter options:

Masterlock Key Safe
This is a large combination lock which can store up to 5 household keys. Paddlers on Standupzone suggested locking the save to their car grill and to their tow hitch.

Hitch Safe
An innovative idea, the combination lock box slides into your tow hitch.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to Paddle Your SUP Out Over Surf Waves

Trying to figure out how to paddle a SUP out over surf waves?  

Here's a few tips..

- Aim directly at the incoming waves.

- Gain speed in forward or surf stance using short strokes similar to a race start.

- As the wave approaches - if in forward stance - put one foot back to raise the nose out of the water a bit.  Make sure both feet are on each side of the center line.  Both on the center line will be unstable.

- When the wave hits your nose, squat down - but keep paddling.

- When the wave crests or breaks under you board - keep paddling.  Here, many stop paddling mistaken, thinking they're over the wave.  On big powerful waves, if you stop paddling here - they'll kick you backwards, and you'll have to start over.  Keep the speed, don't stop paddling til you're 100% over the wave.

- One tip here is to push a rail down on one side of the board to angle board over the wave crest. This allows the board to cut through the wave and releases wave energy on the upside of the board, especially if you have a round nose board.  Pointed nosed boards slice through waves easier.

- If there's more waves coming - keep paddling for the next one.

                                           Watch my video of paddling over several waves.

Safety Tips:

- Don't paddle out directly behind another surfer.  If they get kicked backwards, they'll crash into you.

- Don't paddle out where others are surfing in.  Use the sides of the surf area to paddle out.

- Always use a leash.  If you fall or get kicked back, your board will take off and possibly collide with others behind you (loose ski effect).

- If you're a beginner in the surf, find your own wave away from experienced surfers. Unless you can turn with pinpoint precision out or down a face, keep your distance.